Inception - ***1/2
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordan-Leavitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Muphy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
Review: It presents a world of endless possibilities. The idea of a dream and manipulation of a dream that is. In a dream nothing is real, only our perception that what is happening is real. If gravity ceases to exist in a dream then we perceive it to be a reality that gravity is failing and just accept it and move on. If you can harness this ability and change dreams as you see fit the possibilities are endless. That is the premise of this movie and it is executed to near perfection by the master Christopher Nolan.
I use the term master with complete knowledge of the weight it carries for Nolan has officially solidified himself as a master and possibly the best young director working today. The idea of dream manipulation and, going even further, dream within a dream manipulation is very complex material and in the hands of a lesser skilled auteur (and actors) would've fallen apart. However, thankfully for us, it's in the hands of Nolan, DiCaprio, Gordon-Leavitt, Page, Cotillard and the like and they guide us through with great perception of the material and the world they're in.
The plot is a little too complex to discuss efficiently here so I will refrain, but basically it involves people who infiltrate other people's subconscious in order to "extract" needed information through the use of dreams. The story arc centers around one big job where they need to infiltrate somebody's mind and the assembly of the team needed to pull it off.
Nolan seems to be a big fan of layering his story upon itself multiple times over, thereby creating a web of a story line and only he can unravel, and he takes great joy in doing so. This is normally accomplished by telling the movie in a non-linear fashion, going forward and backward in the storyline at will (think Memento or Following). However, introducing the prospect of dreams and dreams within a dream allows him to layer the story and still keep the storytelling linear.
The brilliance of Nolan and this movie does not lie in the plot itself so much as it does in the ability of the director and the actors to take such an "out there" plot and keep it grounded enough to make an extremely compelling film. A less skilled director would not be able to keep all the layers of this story and still have it be coherent. Such is the brilliance of Christopher Nolan.
The final job in the movie that covers roughly the last hour and a half of the movie is extremely intense and one of the longest most intense sequences I have ever seen on film. He manages to bottle the tension of an epic car chase scene and make it last for over an hour. Quite skilled. Nolan's ability to interweave all of these "realities" puts the audience in a position where they can sometimes forget what is real and what is a dream. Then you begin to wonder if you can wake up from this dream or if you even want to. Would you want to come back from the dream into the reality? Can you come back after seeing this "reality"? And the ultimate question, once you do come back how to tell the difference between a dream and reality if dreams are reality until we are woken up? Complex questions indeed and all dealt with with deft skill by Nolan.
In a summer that is seriously lacking with any decent films this comes along and shows up what a master filmmaker can do. This film shows us why Hollywood can be great and what happens when you allow skilled people the ability to work. This film is definitely worth your time.